East Asia Theater
Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced on April 16 for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong's "Father of Democracy," and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said: "The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government's intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city." (BBC News, NYT, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International)
A Hong Kong court on April 1 found seven prominent democracy activists guilty of unauthorized assembly for their involvement in a 2019 peaceful anti-government protest. The defendants, all 60 years or older, include media figure Jimmy Lai and veteran Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee, hailed as Hong Kong's "Father of Democracy." Also appearing in the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court were former Labour Party lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho, former League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Longair" Leung Kwok-hung, former Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng, and former Democratic Party chair Albert Ho. "Shame on political prosecution! Peaceful demonstration is not a crime!" Leung Kwok-hung shouted from dock after the conviction was delivered.
Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for "subversion of state power." Li was detained Feb. 6 in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li's detention follows her disclosure of Xu's torture and mistreatment in detention. On Feb. 19, Li's lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, and was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed.
In Episode 63 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg draws a parallel between the self-determination struggles in Taiwan and Puerto Rico. Each is an island nation in the "backyard" of a great imperial power, struggling for its independence. Taiwan is de facto independent from China, with a movement to make it official. Puerto Rico is a de facto colony (officially "unincorporated territory") of the United States, with a movement for independence. Taiwan is being particularly threatened at this moment by the imperial power that covets it; Puerto Rico particularly fucked over at this moment by the imperial power that controls it. Yet the emergence of Taiwan-Puerto Rico solidarity is held back by the fact that their respective imperial metropoles are rivals on the geopolitical chassboard—another illustration of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system.
Chinese rights activist and attorney Guo Feixiong was detained at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport Jan. 28 after border police prevented him from boarding a flight to visit his ailing wife, Zhang Qing, who is being treated for cancer in the Washington DC area. Guo had time to get out a text message saying he was being accused of "endangering national security," and announcing that he would immediately begin a hunger strike in protest, before his phone went silent. Family and friends have not heard from him since. He was at the Shanghai airport for a connecting flight from Guangzhou, where he had spent the previous weeks, and reported that he was being followed by plainclothes police officers.
An utterly maddening story in the Princeton Planet Dec. 8 informs us that exiled Chinese dissident Teng Biao has been facing protests at his home in New Jersey's Princeton Junction—by fellow opponents of China's dictatorship. They are, absurdly, accusing him of being a "spy" and collaborator with the dictatorship, and even peddling bizarre conspiracy theories that he helped spread the coronavirus in the United States on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. Their signs and propaganda are promoting GTV Media, a conservative Chinese-language platform run by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui in a partnership with far-right operative Steve Bannon. Teng Biao has seemingly been targeted because he has been critical of both Guo Wengui and Donald Trump in articles and on social media.
Hong Kong authorities arrested seven prominent opposition politicians Nov. 1, and an eighth the following day. The charges arise from an incident during a Legislative Council meeting in May. The politicians arrested are Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Fernando Cheung, and Ted Hui, all pro-democracy lawmakers, in addition to Kwok Wing-kin, chairman of the Labour Party, and former lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan. All eight have been released on bail. Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, denounced the arrests as an attempt to silence the opposition. The arrests do not appear to be tied to the widely condemned National Security Law that went into affect in June.
Fears are mounting over an environmental disaster of still unknown origin in Russia's Far East after residents reported finding dozens of dead sea animals washed onto a beach from the Pacific. Greenpeace Russia said tests conducted on water samples taken from Khalaktyrsky beach in Kamchatka krai showed petroleum levels four times higher than usual, and phenol levels 2.5 times higher. "The scale of the contamination has not yet been determined, but the fact that dead animals are found all along the coast confirms the seriousness of the situation," the organization said in a statement, warning of an "ecological catastrophe." Images shared on social media, including by popular blogger Yuri Dud showed dead fish, octopuses, sea urchins, crabs and other marine animals washed up on the shore.